British–Irish Council

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British-Irish Council
Formation2 December 1999; 23 years ago (1999-12-02)
TypeIntergovernmental organisation
Legal statusBritish–Irish Agreement
HeadquartersEdinburgh, Scotland1
Coordinates55°56′45″N 3°13′21″W / 55.94584°N 3.22262°W / 55.94584; -3.22262
Region served
British Isles2
1 This is the location of the Standing.
2 The term British Isles being a geographical term as distinct from the political. See British Isles Secretariat of the British-Irish Council. Owing to a dispute over name of the archipelago, the BIC uses a number of euphemisms to avoid this term in its documents.

The British–Irish Council (BIC) (Irish: Comhairle na Breataine-na hÉireann) is an intergovernmental organisation that aims to improve collaboration between its members in a number of areas including transport, the environment, and energy.[1] Its membership comprises Ireland, the United Kingdom, the devolved governments of Northern Ireland, Scotland and Wales, and the governments of the Crown Dependencies of the UK: Guernsey, Jersey and the Isle of Man. England does not have a devolved administration, and as a result is not individually represented on the council but represented as a member of the UK.[2]

The British and Irish governments, and political parties in Northern Ireland, agreed to form a Council under the British–Irish Agreement, part of the Good Friday Agreement reached in 1998. The council was formally established on 2 December 1999, when the Agreement came into effect. The council's stated aim is to "promote the harmonious and mutually beneficial development of the totality of relationships among the peoples of these islands". The BIC has a standing secretariat, located in Edinburgh, Scotland, and meets in semi-annual summit session and more frequent ministerial meetings.[3]

Membership and operation[edit]

Membership of the Council consists of the following administrations (with current heads of administrations as of May 2023):

Member Administration Representative(s) Title
Guernsey Deputy Peter Ferbrache P&RC President
Ireland Leo Varadkar TD (cropped).jpg Leo Varadkar TD Taoiseach
Jersey Royal Visit 2012 0048.jpg Senator Kristina Moore Chief Minister
Isle of Man Alfred Cannan MHK Chief Minister
Northern Ireland[4] Vacant[5] First Minister
Vacant[5] Deputy First Minister
Scotland Humza Yousaf 2023.jpg Humza Yousaf MSP First Minister
United Kingdom Chancellor Rishi Sunak (cropped).jpg Rishi Sunak MP Prime Minister
Wales Mark Drakeford (cropped).jpg Mark Drakeford MS First Minister

The nine heads of government meet at summits twice per year. Additionally, there are regular meetings that deal with specific sectors which are attended by the corresponding ministers. Representatives of members operate in accordance with whatever procedures for democratic authority and accountability are in force in their respective elected legislatures.

England, unlike the other countries of the United Kingdom, is not represented separately, as it does not have its own devolved administration. It is thus solely represented on the council as part of the United Kingdom. Although Cornwall technically holds observer status on the Council due to its language, it is also represented by the UK government.[6][7]

The work of the council is financed by members through mutual agreement as required.[8] At the ninth meeting of the Council in July 2007 it was decided that with devolved government returned to Northern Ireland that an opportune time existed "to undertake a strategic review of the Council's work programmes, working methods and support arrangements." This decision included the potential for a permanent standing secretariat, which was established in Edinburgh, Scotland, on 4 January 2012.

At its June 2010 summit, the Council decided to move forward on recommendations to enhance the relationship between it and the British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly (BIPA). The British-Irish Parliamentary Assembly is made up of members from the parliaments and assemblies of the same states and regions as the members of the British–Irish Council. The Council tasked its secretariat with moving this work forward in conjunction with the BIPA's secretariat.

Work areas[edit]

A British-Irish Council summit hosted by Scotland at Stirling Castle

The Council agrees to specific work areas for which individual members take responsibility. The Belfast Agreement suggested transport links, agriculture, environmental issues, culture, health, education and approaches to the European Union as suitable topics for early discussion. However, these work areas can be expanded or reduced as the Council decides. It is also open to the council to make agreement on common policies. These agreements are made through consensus, although individual members may opt not to participate in implementing any of these.

The current list of work areas and the member responsible are:

Demography was adopted as a work area at the 2006 meeting of the council. It was proposed by the Scottish Executive, who also took responsibility for it. During the 2007 meeting of the council the Scottish Government further proposed that energy become a work area of the council. Past work sector areas included knowledge economy, e-health / telemedicine and tourism.

Name of the Council[edit]

Initial suggestions for the council included the names Council of the British Isles[10] or Council of the Isles,[11] and the council has sometimes been known by the latter name. However, owing to sensitivities around the term British Isles, particularly in Ireland, the name British–Irish Council was agreed.

The official name of the council is represented in minority and lesser-used languages of the council as:


Date Host Host leader(s) Location held Communique/reference
1st 17 December 1999  United Kingdom Tony Blair London [1]
2nd 30 November 2001  Ireland Bertie Ahern Dublin [2]
3rd 14 June 2002  Jersey Pierre Horsfall Saint Helier [3]
4th 22 November 2002  Scotland Jack McConnell New Lanark [4]
5th 28 November 2003  Wales Rhodri Morgan St Fagans National History Museum, Cardiff [5]
6th 28 November 2004  Guernsey Laurie Morgan Castle Cornet [6]
7th 20 May 2005  Isle of Man Donald Gelling Villa Marina, Douglas [7]
8th 2 June 2006  United Kingdom John Prescott ExCeL Conference Centre, London [8]
9th 16 July 2007 Northern Ireland Ian Paisley
Martin McGuinness
Parliament Buildings, Belfast [9]
10th 14 February 2008  Ireland Bertie Ahern Royal Hospital Kilmainham, Dublin [10]
11th 26 September 2008  Scotland Alex Salmond Hopetoun House, South Queensferry [11]
12th 20 February 2009  Wales Rhodri Morgan SWALEC Stadium, Cardiff [12]
13th 13 November 2009  Jersey Terry Le Sueur Radisson Hotel, Saint Helier [13]
14th 25 June 2010  Guernsey Lyndon Trott Fermain Valley Hotel, Saint Peter Port [14]
15th 13 December 2010  Isle of Man Tony Brown Sefton Hotel, Douglas [15]
16th 20 June 2011  United Kingdom Nick Clegg Lancaster House, London [16]
17th 13 January 2012  Ireland Enda Kenny Dublin Castle, Dublin [17]
18th 22 June 2012  Scotland Alex Salmond Stirling Castle, Stirling [18]
19th 26 November 2012  Wales Carwyn Jones Cardiff Castle, Cardiff [19]
20th 21 June 2013 Northern Ireland Peter Robinson
Martin McGuinness
Magee College, Derry [20]
21st 15 November 2013  Jersey Ian Gorst L’Horizon Hotel, Saint Brélade [21]
22nd 13 June 2014  Guernsey Jonathan Le Tocq St. Pierre Park Hotel, Saint Peter Port [22]
23rd 28 November 2014  Isle of Man Allan Bell Villa Marina Complex, Douglas [23]
24th 19 June 2015  Ireland Enda Kenny Dublin Castle, Dublin [24]
25th 27 November 2015  United Kingdom Theresa Villiers Lancaster House, London [25]
26th 17 June 2016  Scotland Nicola Sturgeon Crowne Plaza Hotel, Glasgow [26]
27th Extraordinary 22 July 2016  Wales Carwyn Jones Cathays Park, Cardiff [27]
28th 25 November 2016  Wales Carwyn Jones Cathays Park, Cardiff [28]
29th 10 November 2017  Jersey Ian Gorst L’Horizon Hotel, St. Brelade


30th 22 June 2018  Guernsey Gavin St Pier St Pierre Park Hotel, Saint Peter Port [30]
31st 9 November 2018  Isle of Man Howard Quayle Isle of Man [31]
32nd 28 June 2019  United Kingdom David Lidington Manchester [32]
33rd 15 November 2019  Ireland Leo Varadkar Dublin [33]
34th 6 November 2020  Scotland Nicola Sturgeon via video conferencing [30]
35th 11 June 2021 Northern Ireland Arlene Foster and Michelle O’Neill Lough Erne resort, Fermanagh [31][15]
36th 19 November 2021  Wales Mark Drakeford Cardiff [32]
37th 8 July 2022  Guernsey Peter Ferbrache St. Pierre Park Hotel, Saint Peter Port [33]
38th 11 November 2022  United Kingdom Rishi Sunak Blackpool [34][9]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Jesse, Neal G., Williams, Kristen P.: Identity and institutions: conflict reduction in divided societies.Publisher SUNY Press, 2005, page 107. ISBN 0-7914-6451-2
  2. ^ See Vernon Bogdanor, 'The British–Irish Council and Devolution', in Government and Opposition: An International Journal of Comparative Politics, volume 34, issue 3, July 1999, pp.291–295.
  3. ^ "British-Irish Council". Scottish Government. 25 June 2010. Archived from the original on 5 November 2013. Retrieved 28 November 2019.
  4. ^ The First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland is a diarchy. While other members of the organization are represented at Summit Meetings by their respective chief ministers, or on occasions have sent their deputies, Northern Ireland is represented by both the First Minister and deputy First Minister of Northern Ireland. The Scottish and Welsh Deputy First Ministers have attended meetings in the past.
  5. ^ a b "DUP: NI First Minister Paul Givan announces resignation". BBC News. 3 February 2022. Archived from the original on 3 February 2022. Retrieved 3 February 2022.
  6. ^ "FOURTH REPORT SUBMITTED BY UNITED KINGDOM PURSUANT TO ARTICLE 25, PARAGRAPH 2 OF THE FRAMEWORK CONVENTION FOR THE PROTECTION OF NATIONAL MINORITIES". Council of Europe. 8 April 2015. p. 25. Archived from the original on 29 April 2021. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  7. ^ "New Frontiers: Cornish Culture and Heritage" (PDF). Cornwall Council. 2018. Archived (PDF) from the original on 8 March 2021. Retrieved 27 March 2021.
  8. ^ Belfast Agreement Archived 22 November 2013 at the Wayback Machine – Strand Three, Articles 8 and 9.
    British-Irish Council website, Frequently Asked Questions: Who pays for the British-Irish Council? Archived 30 June 2007 at the Wayback Machine
  9. ^ a b c "In Context: The British-Irish Council". 22 November 2022. Retrieved 30 November 2022.
  10. ^ UDP proposes creation of British Isles council Archived 11 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Irish Times, May 30, 1996
  11. ^ The British-Irish Council: Nordic Lessons for the Council of the Isles Archived 10 July 2015 at the Wayback Machine, Mads Qvortrup and Robert Hazell, The Constitution Unit, October 1998
  12. ^ "Menystrans hembronk rag yethow teythyek, minoryta ha le-usys yw an Governans Kembrek". British-Irish Council. 16 May 2013. Archived from the original on 16 August 2014. Retrieved 22 July 2014.
  14. ^ "Work of the British-Irish Council". British-Irish Council. Archived from the original on 29 January 2004. Retrieved 11 April 2017.
  15. ^ "Arlene Foster bows out with smiles and Frank Sinatra's That's Life". 11 June 2021. Archived from the original on 11 June 2021. Retrieved 11 June 2021.

External links[edit]